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LinkedIn is investing in Hopin and betting on remote events after the pandemic

Hopin CEO Johnny Boufarhat.

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella laid out her plans in March for a future of hybrid work. Now, his company’s LinkedIn department is betting that people will continue to call online, even after offices reopen.

The virtual conference technology company Hopin, which was valued at $ 5.65 billion in a $ 400 million financing round in March, has just added LinkedIn to its investor list. The company told CNBC that LinkedIn invested at the same valuation and bought shares from existing stakeholders. The investment was under $ 50 million, according to two people familiar with the terms of the deal, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential information.

“Virtual events are here to stay,”

; Scott Roberts, LinkedIn’s Vice President of Business Development, said in a statement. “We recognize that our customers use many platforms, so we want to make it easy for them to expand the reach of their live events to LinkedIn.”

Hopin CEO Johnny Boufarhat said the companies will collaborate in ways that provide “immersive experiences” to users of both services. With 756 million members, LinkedIn is almost ubiquitous among workers in industries such as technology, finance, consulting and consumer products, creating an easy place for Hopin to potentially connect large sections of people. Boufarhat said more details are coming soon.

For LinkedIn, which Microsoft acquired for $ 27 billion in 2016, the investment is tailored to a perception across large parts of the technology industry that returning to work will look very different from the pre-pandemic world. Remote employment is skyrocketing, offices are being consolidated, and the five-day office commute is fast becoming a thing of the past.

Salesforce director Marc Benioff told CNBC on Monday that he expects 50% to 60% of employees to continue working from home. Nadella told Microsoft employees in October that the company will allow for more flexible work schedules. In a LinkedIn post in March titled “The hybrid work paradox,” Nadella said employees want opportunities to work externally while having more personal collaboration.

“Hybrid work represents the biggest shift to how we work in our generation,” Nadella wrote. “And it will require a new operating model that spans people, places, and processes.”

Hopin thrived in the pandemic

Hopin was in the right place at the right time when the pandemic hit. The company was set up just two years ago in London and quickly found itself aboard users last year when live conferences were canceled and organizers sought a quick fix to become virtual.

Hopin’s software lets conference hosts mimic the experience of physical events with virtual conversation tools and network sidebars. It recently acquired the video streaming service StreamYard and the development of the mobile app company Topi and launched its own mobile app in February.

The company also rushed to fill its coffers, raising $ 40 million in June last year and $ 125 million in November, before the $ 400 million it went into earlier this year. Its employee base has grown from six in early 2020 to 550 today. More than 95,000 organizations now use the software, and millions of people attend virtual events every month, the company said.

LinkedIn has actively invested in software and backed at least three other startups this year, according to PitchBook. Most recently, LinkedIn was part of a $ 88 million funding in analytics start-up piano in May.

The company’s most notable investment came in 2014, two years before it was acquired by Microsoft. That was when the developers of Apache Kafka open source software spun out of LinkedIn and set up a company called Confluent. LinkedIn invested about $ 500,000 as part of a $ 6.9 million investment that valued Confluent at $ 24 million.

Confluent is now set to go public with more than $ 300 million in annual revenue, according to the prospectus filed last week, and a valuation that hit $ 4.5 billion last year.

– CNBC’s Jordan Novet contributed to this report.

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